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Spheres of Influence 05/01/2008 - 5:34 PM

Rafa It's funny but we're not accustomed to Rafael Nadal making controversial statements, and we're even less accustomed to Nadal being overtly critical. That's why this Reuters piece , in which Nadal is outspoken about the rigors of the clay-court tour, caught my eye. Here's the money quote from Nadal: "These people are destroying Europe and Europe used to be the foundation of the tour."

A few things struck me about that comment. First, I was startled by the language used by Nadal. Despite his formidable abilities as "destroyer" himself, especially at this time of year, it's still jarring to hear him use that verb. Second, was his use of that always vaguely contemptuous term, "these people" (as your mother used to say of the crude Honeycutts: "We don't mix with those people. . .). Of course, the literal accuracy of the quote is questionable (I find it hard to imagine that Nadal would choose a word as precise "foundation" when speaking English, and I don't think he's familiar enough with English to use "these people" in the way I describe). Perhaps the comment was translated from the Spanish. Perhaps it was sexed up in an effort at clarity - or sensation.

Last and most important, I think Nadal's observation is wildly inaccurate [[ed note: it appears that the quote is indeed inaccurate, but I'm letting it stand because it's a convenient jumping off point for issues that are independent of the alleged misquote]] . The U.S. and England were the foundation of the tour - at least they were if we're using "tour" in the most broadly accepted sense. About 30 years ago (give or take), pro-tour tennis was still a novelty of sorts in Europe, despite the strong local tennis traditions that existed in many nations. Spain was completely off the radar as a nation with "tour" events (and players). The Italian Open was a strange, makeshift event at which the skeletal, temporary bleachers vied with those giant marble statues in the Foro Italico for the attention of a visitor's eyes. The French Open was considered the biggest of the European clay court events, which meant that it still wasn't big enough to keep top players, including dominant champs Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert, from blowing it off to play - World Team Tennis.

This was not entirely a matter of greedy players going for the easy money, either. They opted for the easy money because the French Open (along with the Australian major) wasn't considered a "must play" event. It was clearly overshadowed by Wimbledon and the US Open.

Okay, I can almost hear some of you harrumphing:  Just because Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors didn't play in Paris doesn't mean it wasn't important. They're just silly, myopic, provincial Americans anyway! Well, Bjorn Borg, who's never been accused of being American, also by-passed the French in 1977, despite being the two-time defending champion. Doing so helped him battle Jimmy Connors for the WTT Most Valuable Player award!  WTT had few qualms going up against the French Open partly because on-the-ground realities suggested that the players could be persuaded to miss it.

Of course, Nadal could be forgiven an insufficient grasp of tennis history. Today, European and South American players dominate the tour about the same way the U.S. and Australia once did. And the rehabilitation of the Italian and French Opens, along with the rise of Spanish tennis and the continued prestige of Monte Carlo, have transformed the geopolitics of tennis.

Today, Europe and the U.S. are roughly equal in terms of the number of significant events they host. They also are the twin poles of a conflict that may only get worse in the near term, or until (make that unless) the US begins producing more great players, Europeans lose interest in tennis, or South American economies become strong and stable enough to demand  - and get - a greater share of tournaments (We won't even consider China, which is too new a force to assess).

Of these, the third possibility is the most remote, starting with an obvious and in some ways unacceptable problem: all the calendar weeks have been doled out. Even if the economy of, say, Argentina, skyrocketed tomorrow, and Tubby Dave Nalbandian got to be no. 1, the ATP would have to do some hard thinking - and an extra week to the calendar - to sanction a mega-event there.

The other two possibilities, I think, are also unlikely to come to pass. Two or three bankable American Grand Slam contenders could emerge, and overnight (it has happened before, right on the heels of the McEnroe era), but there are no signs of that happening despite the current drought being much longer the last one. And Europeans are pumping out enough players to keep the game healthy there.

Still, nobody should ever forget the lesson about Europe taught to us by Germany. When Steffi Graf and Boris Becker were running amok, Germans lifted tennis to No. 3 in mass popularity, behind only soccer and F-1 auto racing.  But television ratings, live attendance, prize money - an entire economy once so robust that broadcasting fees from German television accounted for over 90 per cent of the ATP's revenues - all went over a cliff when Becker and Graf faded, and nobody stepped into their large shoes. The crash almost bankrupted the tour.

The real conflict for the near future seems to be between the US and Europe, with a bone thrown to the emerging markets that ought to be, but aren't really, under Australian influence. Think about it: what's the major flash point in today's game in general? It's where the hard courts meet the clay, with hard courts symbolizing American influence and power, and clay the growing force of Europe.

Europeans directs special resentment at the two, big US spring hard court events, Indian Wells and Miami. Much to the Europeans' chagrin, those two events are, arguably, the biggest non-Grand Slam tour events of the year. And even the most ardently anti-American factions know that the demise of those events would have an enormous negative impact on tennis in general. Nadal's harsh comment is really a refinement of the argument he made in Miami, when he expressed bitterness over the way the players must bounce from exhausting, back-to-back hard-court Masters events in the U.S. onto the clay of Europe - for three Masters events in four weeks.

Insane? Of course. But isn't war always? And that's just where we are today - in an undeclared war between an emerging, seemingly self-sufficient Europe, with its clay - and clay-loving players - and the US, with its hard courts, entrepreneurial skills and marketing expertise (you could say that the US continues to be the major tennis power everywhere but on the field of play, so American dominance continues through the use of smoke-and-mirrors). South America and Asia remain on the fringe of the conversation for the obvious reason (lack of tournaments). Despite the terrific job done by the Australian Open, nobody does tennis like the US and Europe.

I've said in the past that anyone who would greet the downfall of American tennis with a rush of schadenfreude ought to be careful about what he wishes for. Because the wild card in this battle is the sheer heft and persuasive power of the US. Everything we know about culture, especially pop culture, suggests that if something goes out of style in American, it goes out of style everywhere. American notions, tastes, and habits have been that pervasive. Of course, that might change; the question is whether or not we've reached that tipping point. Europeans must be asking themselves, nervously, if that's the case.

The natural solution to this very dramatic problem is impossible but simple. The tennis world should be divided into three spheres of influence, and go with three tours: A spring European (clay) circuit, perhaps starting in temperate climes in South American, a summer (hard court) US circuit, and a fall (hard court/indoor) AusAsian circuit. The Grand Slams, left exactly where they are, would be convenient markers to signal the end of each segment. The Australian Open would continue to fulfill its role as the curtain-raiser, followed by the spring tour, which would officially end at Roland Garros. The summer tour would begin with Wimbledon and end at the US Open. The fall tour would end with the ATP Championships. The precious "Masters" designations could be re-distributed (in so big a project, why not?) and a system worked out for awarding ranking points based on strength of field.

What about Indian Wells and Miami? It's simple: put them on clay (Miami has been played on that surface). Untold numbers of tournaments have demonstrated that surface is the least important element in success.

I almost wish that Nadal's characterization of the tour's "foundation" would be accurate, but reason we're in our current bind is because it is not.


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Posted by 05/01/2008 at 05:41 PM

Uggh!

Too bad you don't speak spanish Pete because the translation is inaccurate.

Nadal said, Europe has always been a strong supporter of Tennis.

Posted by Alexis 05/01/2008 at 05:43 PM

IW and Miami on clay? That's just what we need, more clay tournaments!

Posted by Pete 05/01/2008 at 05:47 PM

Poster no. 1 - thank you, I thought it sounded suspicious!
And Alexis - who cares what the surface if "we" (norteamericano) can't play on any of 'em?

Posted by randomlurker 05/01/2008 at 06:14 PM

But Pete, don't you think there were a bit too many American ATP officials involved in rearranging the clay court season so they could fill their NCAA brackets?
Anyway, the center of Rafa's argument is about the clay schedule this year. Pls address that issue in relation to the big whigs at the ATP and what their rationale was behind it. Saying "war is insane" does not address/justify anything.
Interested to see what you have to say.

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 06:16 PM

Pete, sounds like a solution under a certain set of circumstances.

But I don't think tennis in America will wane under this scenario—although America's hyperinfluence on poplar culture already has, thanks to the events of the last seven years and the tanking dollar.

American's will just learn to play on clay, 'tis all.

Posted by randomlurker 05/01/2008 at 06:16 PM

If I may add to Alexis' post, we don't need more clay tourneys. There are enough in the South American swing prior to IW and Miami. And there's a good amount prior to the FO. They need to be spaced better.
Grass is what needs something that resembles a season!

Posted by Maedel 05/01/2008 at 06:29 PM

I agree with randomlurker @ 6:14 --

Rafa's criticism was triggered by and is mainly directed at the way the European clay court season for tennis was (everyone seems to agree, no?) compressed to accommodate American college basketball and the broadcast industry while giving two American HC tournaments, IW and KB, plenty of time. It's an issue you don't address in your article.

I'm happy to see Rafa going out on the limb on this issue.

Posted by zolarafa 05/01/2008 at 06:29 PM

First?
I almost forgive you for jumping at nadal, because of the very nice solution you brought to the table:

****What about Indian Wells and Miami? It's simple: put them on clay ****

EXACTLY!

and put one master series for grass. ( Hamburg maybe ? after RG?)

I wish someone from ATP read this piece!

Posted by Arcilla Tacones/ Andrea 05/01/2008 at 06:30 PM

***thanks to the events of the last seven years and the tanking dollar.***
Syd- like my economics teacher says, more like the tanking 85 cents!

Posted by codepoke 05/01/2008 at 06:30 PM

That would be so much fun! I'd love discreet seasons and surfaces.

Did you forget to mention the crabby-grass season between clay and concrete?

Posted by zolarafa 05/01/2008 at 06:30 PM

****Uggh!

Too bad you don't speak spanish Pete because the translation is inaccurate.

Nadal said, Europe has always been a strong supporter of Tennis.
**********

I guess the same translator who ruined Rafa's RG 2006 speech has translated this piece too!

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 06:31 PM

Agree: More grass please.

Posted by Contracturado 05/01/2008 at 06:33 PM

[sorry, Contracturado, but you must use tiny url or some other link shortener; posting long links screws up the margins. I just broke yours up with carriage returns]

I respectfully disagree, this is what Nadal said: "estar destruyendo Europa, que ha sido el soporte del tenis durante muchos años".

i'd translate soporte for bastion.


I disgree with poster number one. http://www.elpais.com/articulo/deportes/Nadal/ATP/
destruyendo/circuito/europeo/elpepudep/
20080430elpepudep_18/Tes

Posted by Mary Eileen 05/01/2008 at 06:35 PM

Doesnt the ATP stand for Association of Tennis Professionals? If so, it seems to me that there isnt any active player involved in decision makings, which to me, mustnt be the case. I think its unfair that things are just handed down to the players without them being consulted at the very least. Maybe the active players should have a representative in the decision making body of the so called ATP. THIS YEAR'S CLAY CALENDAR IS TRULY UNFAIR TO NADAL WHOS THE DEFENDING CHAMP in all the events. We just cant accuse Rafa for speaking harshly on the ATP. Its the ATP who has been harsh on Rafa.

Posted by Contracturado 05/01/2008 at 06:38 PM

I believe that the top 50 players signed a petion against the adoption of tiebreaks in the USO around 1970.

It appears that the players are not very powerful

Posted by Mary Eileen 05/01/2008 at 06:42 PM

We rafafans must strongly support him . Vamos Rafa!

Posted by Contracturado 05/01/2008 at 06:43 PM

i guess the sponsors are the ones at the top of the pyramid making decisions.

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 06:44 PM

pete i went back to the original interview of rafa in spanish, which is available in the barcelona site :

http://www.opensabadellatlantico.com/
just choose the rafa interview of 30/04

the extact quote is :
"esta gente que esta al mando de las cosas, lo que esta haciendo es destruir las cosas en europa en estos momentos, y europa ha sido el soporte del tenis durante muchos años"

in spanish the use of "these" isn't pejorative, at least it doesn't sound like it when you listen to rafa in spanish.
they should have translated : the people who are in charge of the "business", what they are doing is destroying things in europe right now, and europe has been the support of tennis during many years.

the wrong world is foundation, rafa used the world support, which is far from saying europe has been the foundation of tennis.

for me tennis stands on 2 legs, one in the US, the other one in europe...
what rafa says, at least for me, is that the ATP are soon going to have a leg that hurts badly, because of the dumb schedule.
earlier in the interview he says he has received some mail from "the people up there" his words ;)

Posted by Tari 05/01/2008 at 06:47 PM

With all due respect, I can't imagine the ATP making a business decision with the fairness to one player as the main concern! That's just silly. That said, of course Rafa is upset, and is entitled to his opinion.

If the tour becomes dominated by clay, this fan will lose a lot of interest. I like the surface, but I'm tired of it and wanting it to end right around when it does, if not sooner...

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 06:49 PM

Mariej:

"the people up there" sweet.

Posted by avid sports fan 05/01/2008 at 06:49 PM

Hmmm.. "mail from the people up there" I think his comments must be getting to the ATP now.

Posted by RNG20 05/01/2008 at 06:52 PM

I agree 10000000% with Rafael.

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 06:54 PM

It's not just Rafa that complains about the season and scheduling. Andy Roddick has also voiced concerns about the length of the season.

Is there an organization that represents the interests of the players? Do they have influence? One would think that the top players would have a tremendous amount of influence if they stuck together; the top ten players boycotting an important tournament ought to get some of their needs met.

Posted by D-Wiz 05/01/2008 at 06:56 PM

"Rafa's criticism was triggered by and is mainly directed at the way the European clay court season for tennis was (everyone seems to agree, no?) compressed to accommodate American college basketball and the broadcast industry while giving two American HC tournaments, IW and KB, plenty of time. It's an issue you don't address in your article."

__________

I, for one, disagree. But I only disagree b/c I cannot be sure it's genuinely as described in the copied comment above. The scenario above *may* be the case, but it may also be the subtle, but important difference of the ATP choosing to take whatever American TV revenue it could get. And if that's what happened, that's the ATP serving itself, choosing the 'best' of no good options, not necessarily 'accommodating' anything or anyone else. I have no idea how dependent the ATP is on American TV revenue, but if 90% of the ATP's revenue once came from German TV (NINETY PERCENT??? HOLY COW!!!, by the way), well, obviously TV money matters. As I said when this was discussed before -- I'm not saying this is a good thing, but it may be a significant thing. Furthermore, it could be something else entirely. I just haven't seen/heard enough info to figure out what factors were truly at work. *shrugs* EdV hasn't returned my phone call yet, dangit, so I really have no idea. ;) hee!

Posted by avid sports fan 05/01/2008 at 07:00 PM

Hmmm.... just curious!. If by chance Nadal is able to pull off wins in Barca, Rome and RG and Finals @ Hamburg, do you think the ATP will bother about the schedule adjustment?

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 07:03 PM

tari, why the atp made an unecessary change in the spring callendar when things could have remained like before ? college basketball was that more impostant in the balance than the equity and balance of the european schedule on clay ???
since the most significant changes come after wimby to fit the olympics in the schedule... giving away a week in the middle of the clay season was some insane thing to do to players who will have very much hard time to compete in the summer !
since the atp board are mainly from the US, i guess the europeans clay events feel like being the third unecessary leg of the tour.
having rafa voicing his frustration, reflects the lack of talk and probably some resignation about the situation, in the interview, he admits there is nothing he can do but protest.

having IW and Miami on clay would be fun, at least the US players could not have anymore excuses for their lack of training on the red stuff ! i just hope they won't choose blue clay !

Posted by MikeDC 05/01/2008 at 07:06 PM

It's always amusing to come up with various fantasy schedules... I have to say the three sphere idea proposed above is possibly the best starting framework I've heard. Indian Wells and Miami could be on green clay, which if I'm not mistaken, plays somewhat more like hard court.

Of course it is more likely that Kimiko Date will win the US Open this year... but great idea nonetheless.

Posted by Samantha Elin 05/01/2008 at 07:09 PM

Being from Europe, I would be glad if the entire tour was played on the clay. I would love to see Miami and IW go clay. At least two of the GS should be on clay. The clay season brings out the best in players because they have to think rather than the ballbashing which is taking over the game on the faster American surfaces. Go Justine, world's #1!

Posted by ™shot 05/01/2008 at 07:16 PM

I don't want more clay. There's enough already, just schedule it better so a defending champ like Rafa isn't disadvantaged for the sake of NCAA basketball. Grass is underrepresented, but I can live with that, personally.

Posted by ™shot 05/01/2008 at 07:18 PM

I'd stop watching if all the matches were on clay. I like to see offense win, not marathon attritional and defensive rallies ending in ufes.

Posted by ™shot 05/01/2008 at 07:19 PM

By the time Rafa dusts himself off after winning RG, I've had my fill and want to move on from clay.

Posted by avid sports fan 05/01/2008 at 07:24 PM

In general are French tennis players very good clay courters? I was just wondering why the FO is in France.

I read this excerpt below from another posting on this website and it seems French play (as described by Fed) is something that would suit hard court. Although I think the statement is a tiny little bit disrespectful to the "Spaniards"

Federer himself is a fan of the Frenchmen prowling the circuit. "They have good techniques, playing style, unbelievable shot making,'' he said earlier this year. "They make you play better tennis than, for instance, the Spaniards, who are just going to throw the ball into play

Posted by Mary Eileen 05/01/2008 at 07:33 PM

tari, i think it wont be silly for the ATP to consider how this will affect only one player since this one player is just the defending champion of all the successive events.

Posted by 05/01/2008 at 07:33 PM

The 'Roger Federer' Grass season should be longer (It can't be any shorter with one tourney and a warmup). It should include, like clay, at least 5 other tournaments, and 3 Masters Series besides just the 1 Grand Slam. Reduce the super long and extended and broken up hardcourt season, and replace some hardcourt tourneys with grass.

Posted by ognost 05/01/2008 at 07:34 PM


Grass is for cows

while

clay is, well, for the potmaker.

Posted by avid sports fan 05/01/2008 at 07:39 PM

hard court for ...?

and carpet for ... the King oops sorry not the King but for Hollywood celebs lol

Posted by 05/01/2008 at 07:40 PM

Roger is the defending champion of Hamburg 4 times, not Rafa once. Roger also has to defend finals in Monte Carlo and French Open.

Posted by q 05/01/2008 at 07:40 PM

Soccer exists outside America. America is not the world.

Posted by Sher 05/01/2008 at 07:42 PM

>What about Indian Wells and Miami? It's simple: put them on clay

Oh how I wish that would happen!

Posted by Sam 05/01/2008 at 07:42 PM

"clay is, well, for the potmaker."

And here I thought that grass was for the ... potmaker.

Posted by 05/01/2008 at 07:45 PM

The US is only 4-5% of the world's total population and area. Some Americans want to think that the US is the entire world, and should be treated that way. That's just typical American patriotism and bias that honestly, is despicable and outrageously insane and wrong on every level. However, that is how some Americans think. It is unfortunate and sad, but TRUE.

Posted by Sher 05/01/2008 at 07:45 PM

And we should have at least a masters maybe two on grass before Wimbledon. Make Miami/IW on clay and make Hamburg on grass.

Posted by afwu 1216 05/01/2008 at 07:52 PM

HOW in the heck would you make Miami and IW on clay?!?! I can understand Hamburg because they could just move it Halle. But how do you change them to being CLAY!

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 07:52 PM

Insane? Of course. But isn't war always? And that's just where we are today - in an undeclared war between an emerging, seemingly self-sufficient Europe, with its clay - and clay-loving players - and the US, with its hard courts, entrepreneurial skills and marketing expertise (you could say that the US continues to be the major tennis power everywhere but on the field of play, so American dominance continues through the use of smoke-and-mirrors). South America and Asia remain on the fringe of the conversation for the obvious reason (lack of tournaments). Despite the terrific job done by the Australian Open, nobody does tennis like the US and Europe.

i don't think it's war... the atp is dictating big changes, sometimes in spite of comon sense, did you forget round robin failure ?
spain is about to get valencia on indoor iso clay for 2009, with madrid being something equivalent to IW on clay during the next spring...

i don't thing you can labell european as clay-loving players, there is more variety in styles in eurpoean players than in the handfull of americans playing hc style, imo.
yes they are better on the red clay than the us squad who lost with shame on the first rd of RG last year...
do we need to blame them for being more competitive on clay ? that's new !!!
or should we blame some americans guys could get their act toghether to prove they can play on clay like they illustrous pairs ???

if you look at the players from the generation 85/87 most of them are european and most of than allready crak the top ten some very consistenly others with ups and downs : rafa, djoko, murray, gasquet, baggy, berdych... on the american side querrey is the first youngster ranked at 39 and far behind him you find young, isner, odesnik and levine... then you have del potro and monaco...

if those young guns don't crak the rankings fast, roddick and blake might start to feel even more alone on tour...
i remember tim henman saying sometimes it was curious to go into a tourney with absolutly no english native speakers...

the tour is actually being dominated by european players but they don't have the corresponding weight in the decision making, the US is running the business since ages, and they do quite a good job most of the times, but the gap is widening fast with recent decisions with the current top players.

did you know that the top 20 players send a petition to the ATP board to keep EdV from being reconducted in his job without being challenged by someone else ??? can you say they are losing the trust ?

Posted by crazyone 05/01/2008 at 07:55 PM

*did you know that the top 20 players send a petition to the ATP board to keep EdV from being reconducted in his job without being challenged by someone else ??? can you say they are losing the trust ?*

And the two American players in the top 20 signed on to this as well, so they're unhappy with Etienne deVilliers too.

Posted by MrsSanta 05/01/2008 at 07:57 PM

Europe already gets a disproportionate amount of ATP love. One measly year of less than ideal scheduling shouldn't lead to such hysterics especially when the scheduling change is neither new nor unexpected. Simmer down Parera.


Posted by skip1515 05/01/2008 at 08:02 PM

Some Americans think the US is the entire world all of the time, and all Americans think some of the time, but you can't say all Americans think the same thing all the time.

Posted by MrsSanta 05/01/2008 at 08:03 PM

*broadcasting fees from German television accounted for over 90 per cent of the ATP's revenues*

What, how and why? I'd love to read full length post on how such a dumb business decision came to pass.

Posted by Charlotte 05/01/2008 at 08:03 PM

This isn't just about Nadal, he is rightly the King of Clay, but he isn't the only one playing the clay events, they're all out there defending their points. This schedule affects all the top clay court players and he was speaking on their behalf.

Posted by Tari 05/01/2008 at 08:09 PM

I wasn't taking a swipe at Rafa. As I said, it is his prerogative to complain. I was taking a swipe at the idea that business decisions should revolve around one player, and the titles he is defending. I also think this year is unusual. Again, I have no problem with Rafa complaining. :)

Posted by avid sports fan 05/01/2008 at 08:10 PM

Hmmm.... I think the ATP should take a cue from the WTA. It seems they don't have such scheduling issues (at least that we know of), no players signing petitions against the top gun, nor ranking points changing haphazardly because of esoteric scheduling.

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 08:10 PM

mrs santa :
i wonder what roddick or blake would say if the moved up IW or miami to accomodate european soccer beach championships ?
i'm smiling at the eventual puzzled look on andy's face ;p

Posted by 05/01/2008 at 08:11 PM


clay is for the potter

grass is for the pot-smoker!

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 08:12 PM

fair enough tari ;)

Posted by mariej... vamos king of clay ! 05/01/2008 at 08:21 PM

2ma !!! i better go to bed !!!
catch you tomorrow !

Posted by ognost 05/01/2008 at 08:23 PM


America being the superpower in terms of money and sports audience: Hardcourt should be the longest season from August to February

Hold IW and Miami in February so that Hardcourt winners in Melbourne can truly cement their hardcourt status.

European clay should be from March to May. American hardcourt tourneys during this period should be considered 'minor' that can be totally ignored by the elite players -- treat them as crumbs for the journeymen.

Grass is high-maintenance and should be kept to June-July.

Posted by MrsSanta 05/01/2008 at 08:24 PM

Marie J I don't buy that the ATP squashed all the clay tournies primarily for NCAA. The 2004 schedule also had the 3 TMSs in 4 weeks. And that was back when finals were best of 5.

http://tinyurl.com/3kym9p

Unless of course the ATP only chooses to accommodate the NCAA once ever 4 years.

Posted by Bismarck 05/01/2008 at 08:25 PM

*The U.S. and England were the foundation of the tour*
always cracks me up when england is treated as a *non-european* entity.
but i agree with your view, Pete, that american interest, marketing and dollars are important for tennis worldwide, though i think sports are actually the part where the US superpower of making its own taste a worldwide one is considerably smaller than in other parts of pop culture.
and what a pity that the good old days when we germans financed world tennis are gone. isn´t it a bit sad that we didn´t get more out of it?
at best we had two measly indoor masters, the grand slam cup. plus one tier 1 event and one tier 2 event in the wta... seems like a small revenue for paying 90%.
we should have demanded two slams per year played on our ground. if not more.
*i want my money back*!

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 08:35 PM

Bismarck:

England and the U.S. (Mother and child) have a lot more in common than England and continental Europe. Germany, excepted.

Posted by Edengrave 05/01/2008 at 08:38 PM

"Everything we know about culture, especially pop culture, suggests that if something goes out of style in America, it goes out of style everywhere"

I couldn't help but be struck by that sentence. An excellent piece. but you have to be american to write something like that with a straight face even though it's taken out of context! lol

also, since the quote is not accurate in the first place, the ending sentence is as misleading as the beginning of the article:

I almost wish that Nadal's characterization of the tour's "foundation" would be accurate, but reason we're in our current bind is because it is not.

But Overall I agree with all the points you raised. :)

Posted by SCT 05/01/2008 at 08:41 PM

" I don't buy that the ATP squashed all the clay tournies primarily for NCAA. The 2004 schedule also had the 3 TMSs in 4 weeks. And that was back when finals were best of 5."

MrsSanta: But that didn't affect Nadal, so no one here cares about that.

Posted by Samantha Elin 05/01/2008 at 08:51 PM

I totally disagree with Ognost, if you look at attendances, and where players are coming from, Europe has been much more supportive of the tour than America. A few years ago IW had to be bailed out because of financial problems and when you watched the matches in Miami, there were rows and rows of empty seats. The YEC moved to Europe because it got very little support when it was in LA. If you look at where tennis is ranked in America, it's far below football, soccer, baseball and basketball. Sorry to inform the Americans, but you're are no longer the center of the universe and the European clay season deserves to be longer. I find it very unfair that 3 of the four slams are played on the faster surfaces. Go red clay! Also, England is clearly in Europe, so Wimbledon had a lot to do with laying the foundation of the tour. Go Justine, world's #1!

Posted by Veruca Salt (waiting for November 4th) 05/01/2008 at 08:51 PM

*emerges from lurkdom*

Sorry Pete, but I think your argument would have more legs if IW and Miami were the only big time hard court tournaments in North America. There's also Montreal/Toronto & Cincinnati as well as the U.S Open. I think Rafa's point is quite fair. Do we want a tour that's full of hardcourt tournaments? I know I don't. I'd like to see more grass tournaments, the clay season should be longer, and the indoor season should be cut in half. Why is variety coming at the expense of greedy tournament directors, and clueless ATP execs? Not to mention, natural surfaces are easier on the body. Do we want massive pullouts and injuries from now on?

Posted by Syd 05/01/2008 at 08:56 PM

And what about Russia? Shouldn't they be given a major. This way it could count as both European and Asian.

Posted by jb 05/01/2008 at 08:57 PM

SCT - heehhee - you've hit the nail on the head there i think!

Posted by Caroline 05/01/2008 at 09:00 PM

I don't see why you would post a inaccurate quote, then come up with an inaccurate article.

Posted by Samantha Elin 05/01/2008 at 09:08 PM

I forgot to add that I think Sweden deserves a lot of credit for it's contribution to tennis. I mean Borg wasn't just a tennis player, he was an international sex symbol. I think that the right way to characterize his appeal.

Posted by Rick 05/01/2008 at 09:18 PM

Yeah, I've never quite got the tour after the AO and before the clay, it's kind of a lost child with no direction home. The rest of the year leads to a big event (even if W and the AO are short leads), but after the AO it's adrift. Not sure making the 5th slam clay is the answer but it needs something...

And BTW, last week I proposed Feat of Clay for Rafa's accomplishments and see it as a headline yesterday - I want my due! Oh, ok, it was real obvious and didn't require a lot of thought, but still, can't a fella get some love?

Posted by federerfan 05/01/2008 at 10:13 PM

if grass has only one GS and an atp event prior to that, i kinda think similar thing could be done to clay, take out one masters event prior to RG and it will leave enuf time for Rafa...wasnt there talk of deprecating Hamburg and MC sometime last year? Then it wont be 3 masters in 4 weeks...it will only be 2 masters...and everyone can be happy.
I for one think, there is an overload of clay tourneys.

Posted by federerfan 05/01/2008 at 10:16 PM

btw, i have no trouble with having more time in europe and more tourneys there....i just dont think they should all be on clay...grass and even maybe HC in europe for a change.

Posted by colin 05/01/2008 at 10:30 PM

I love the clay season' growing up, watching tennis-- the clay of RG always brings back memories.
i love clay! even tho most the courts in the US are hardcourts.
but Ive been noticing rafa crying about the tourney schedule, maybe he's feeling the heat to win and keep in the points race. his rational, why not make the clay season longer, more break time?! Well i say toughy', stop cryin and beat federer on the hardcourts if you want the points! Alot of tennis is tradition, thats why things are the way they are.
With petes point tennis floats in and out of popularity here in the usa, eventually another slamer will emerge probably not for another 10 years atleast the 90s early 00's were too good.

Posted by Irving 05/01/2008 at 10:51 PM

[Edited] See the site rules, please.

I agree that we need more GRASS tournaments; not clay.

If you look at the 2008 ATP calendar, here's roughly what you'll find:

32 on Hard Court
26 on Clay
6 on Grass
4 on Carpet

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:18 PM

There twenty too many clay tournaments and twenty too few grass tournaments. Discuss among yourselves ...

Playing on clay changes the nature of the game so much that it does not appear to be tennis as played on hardcourt-grass_pre_2001-carpet. And the difference is somewhat like the difference between ice hockey and filed hockey :-)

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:18 PM

There twenty too many clay tournaments and twenty too few grass tournaments. Discuss among yourselves ...

Playing on clay changes the nature of the game so much that it does not appear to be tennis as played on hardcourt-grass_pre_2001-carpet. And the difference is somewhat like the difference between ice hockey and field hockey :-)

Posted by Sherlock 05/01/2008 at 11:21 PM

"Playing on clay changes the nature of the game so much that it does not appear to be tennis as played on hardcourt-grass_pre_2001-carpet"

And this matters why? I think we should get rid of hardcourts because they changes the nature of the game. Let's go back to grass and clay only for the slams.

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:25 PM

While we are on the topic of tennis surfaces, why not water? Rafa and Serena have played on water :-)

Posted by Shantal 05/01/2008 at 11:27 PM

Just an advice to the writer - base your "work" on facts if you involve real people. When you write a whole article based around a quote that's mistranslated and leave it on your blog even after you know that just so you can have an "interesting" discussion, well sorry, but that doesn't make you a better writer. If you want to have a point to discuss, make it from your own name, not using a player's one.


And to all who are whining that Nadal says that the scheduling of the calendar is wrong is petty, imagine this - three hard court MS + an ISG level of hard court tournaments all crammed into one month because of soccer TV rights. Oh, and imagine that that's 80% of the HC season in points. You think the "hard-court specialist" will not cry out? Dream on. Because apparently that's what you are doing right now.

I, too, would like to see at least one MS tournament on grass, but since it would have to be in Europe the chances of the ATP approving that are like 0.00000001%.

Posted by D-Wiz 05/01/2008 at 11:34 PM

*broadcasting fees from German television accounted for over 90 per cent of the ATP's revenues*

What, how and why? I'd love to read full length post on how such a dumb business decision came to pass.
________

Waterfall charts were doubtlessly involved. ;)

Posted by ptenisnet 05/01/2008 at 11:36 PM

Man, I miss the time of Pangea when all the tournaments were played on one continent and there was none of this meshugas.

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:43 PM

The schedule changes this year are triggered by the Olympics, in part. I don't know why Rafa has been going on and on about the ATP and the damn American NCAA basketball :-)

Posted by Whitney 05/01/2008 at 11:44 PM

LOL ptenisnet! The good 'ol days.

Posted by ptenisnet 05/01/2008 at 11:45 PM

So the question is not whether the HC specialist would complain or not. It is whether or not (and how) the complaint would be entertained. I am sure there will an equal amount, if not more of "whining".
And the interesting thing is that the statement makes the same amount of sense if written this way.
"And to all who are SAYING that Nadal WHINES about ..."

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:47 PM

Ptenis,

If you look closely at the map of Pangaea at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangaea (under Configuration of Pangaea), you notice that most of the matches were played on grass,
some oon clay :-)

Posted by ptenisnet 05/01/2008 at 11:50 PM

Damn thing looks more like a golf course than a bloody continent. And the water hazard is all around you.

I think hard courts hadn't been invented at that time. Also no luxilon and double faults.

Posted by 2h4h 05/01/2008 at 11:50 PM

Ptenis,

And Pangaea seems like a natural playground for golf :-)

Posted by ptenisnet 05/01/2008 at 11:52 PM

jinx 2h4h

Posted by Shantal 05/02/2008 at 12:01 AM

ptenisnet - If expressing your option in a civilized manner on a matter that concerns one is considered whining to you, well, I can't help with that.

Then the other players are whining too? Because Nadal isn't the only one to say this. It's just the one that the media focuses on. And that's not his fault.

Posted by ptenisnet 05/02/2008 at 12:03 AM

Well shantal,
ditto.

Posted by 2h4h 05/02/2008 at 12:05 AM

Sorry, Ptenis. After I posted the first about grass/clay on Pangaea, I thought it looked like a golf course and posted the next one before I saw your post :-)

Posted by dnrood 05/02/2008 at 12:11 AM

Obviously, Rafa is making these statements out of frustration and self interest, but I don't critisize him for them. If he gets to the final in all the upcoming clay court events and repeats a Wimby final, along with his relatively good hardcourt results early in the year he will have played as many matches by July as most guys will all year. For him not to be running on fumes by the US Open he would have to skip some of these clay court events. Obviously if he wants to be No. 1 he has to defend his points, so he is against a rock and a hard place.

Posted by Sash 05/02/2008 at 12:20 AM

More tournaments on grass PLZZZZZZZZZ. Now that these days grass is plaing much slow even clay-court experts (Rafa, Ferrero) are able to do very well on it. It being a natural surface too would not harm the body! Convery Miami and IW to grass! Dont see either Rafa, Nole, Federer or ARod complaining!

Posted by Sash 05/02/2008 at 12:23 AM

Not having even a single Masters on Grass is a SIN!

Posted by Sash 05/02/2008 at 12:36 AM

sports-related article. A very fine read!

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/01/earlyshow/main4061276.shtml

Posted by zolarafa 05/02/2008 at 12:43 AM

some of you guys just don't get it. Rafa will not play the finals by himself (if he gets to them all!). The compact calendar affects everyone. Please come forward and say having 3 master series in 4 weeks in sane. There has been just 6 withdrawls in Barcelona this week. Rafa is not one of them. This is the future of tennis for the rest of the year. More injuries, more withdrawls and more disappointed fans.

You ignore deliberately the fact that the measly one week rest after MC has been taken out in favor of CBS and American College Basketball. Your solution is : "then Rafa should forego some ranking points and not play some of these tournaments". MonteCarlo, Hamburg and Rome are mandatory and just one week after Hamburg there is RG and then Wimbledon.

Rafa will hopefully dump Hamburg and Rome and at most lose 500 points. Try to look at the schedule without your biase towards Rafa. Try to see that having IW and Miami 7 weeks after AO and then MC-Rome-Hamburg in 4 weeks is just not right.

If you wish for some players to get injured so that some others can get ahead, I have nothing more to say! This is a calendar for everyone and the Disney curse will affect all the players , not just Rafa. That's why 17 of top 20 players have signed that letter.

It is not just Parera!

Posted by TennisEsq 05/02/2008 at 12:47 AM

"Man, I miss the time of Pangea when all the tournaments were played on one continent and there was none of this meshugas."

LOL!

Posted by abbey 05/02/2008 at 01:10 AM

""Rafa's criticism was triggered by and is mainly directed at the way the European clay court season for tennis was (everyone seems to agree, no?) compressed to accommodate American college basketball and the broadcast industry while giving two American HC tournaments, IW and KB, plenty of time. It's an issue you don't address in your article."

__________

I, for one, disagree. But I only disagree b/c I cannot be sure it's genuinely as described in the copied comment above. The scenario above *may* be the case, but it may also be the subtle, but important difference of the ATP choosing to take whatever American TV revenue it could get. And if that's what happened, that's the ATP serving itself, choosing the 'best' of no good options, not necessarily 'accommodating' anything or anyone else."

this is what i was hoping the article would address. instead, we're treated to an article completely off-tangent from the gist of nadal's complaint. so it seems nadal's complaints are indeed falling on deaf ears. and not just with the atp but with the media as well. *sigh*

Posted by Sash 05/02/2008 at 01:19 AM

Everyone seems to be complaining that the ball ain't clearly visible on clay. It was said during the MC matches (also reiterated by Tom Perrotta too. I could see the ball as clearly (on my Sony TV) as the sun at the time of sunrise!

Posted by marron 05/02/2008 at 01:23 AM

Thank you, zolorafa. I couldn't have said that any better myself. Totally agree.

Posted by Divesh 05/02/2008 at 01:44 AM

Interesting take with all the historical facts you plotted out. However, Nadal's claim is primarily to just convince the "American-executive dominated ATP" to consider the hard physical conditions for the players..and that's it. He of course is trying to point out the importance of European tennis players as well. Today tennis is known not just because of "American" entrepreneurial and marketing skills, but because European players such as Nadal and Federer and Djokovic are making it possible. Also, when you say "American"...as in "American entrepreneurs" promoting tennis and having the big influence....you should just say "capitalists"...because a capitalist is not loyal to any nation but money and only money. That's the nature of the business. If some American entrepreneur decides to not support tennis, I'm sure in this globalized world tons of other entrepreneurs looking for opportunity will come running to offer tennis the needed support.

Posted by 05/02/2008 at 01:48 AM

I have not read through all of the comments but thank you MarieJ for the confirmation of the translation and use of "soporte" translated at support vs. foundation. I had to run out of the house when I saw this piece pop up and felt compelled to throw out my disagreement on the translation which was the angle of Pete's piece.

My question on this:
Apparently the top 20 players have signed a letter asking that other resumes be considered before renewing EV's contract. Great!

Why has the press not asked other players about this issue in their press interviews? Why has no other player come forward on this?

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